On Friday, former President Donald Trump made a Save America PAC campaign stop at Treasure Island Hotel in Las Vegas to stump for Nevada’s Republican candidates. The focus of the event’s roundtable, followed by a more traditional Trump rally speech, was the promotion of both Adam Laxalt, former Nevada Attorney General, who’s challenging Catherine Cortez Masto (D) in the Senate, and Joe Lombardo, the current Clark County Sheriff, who’s aiming to unseat Steve Sisolak (D) in the Governor’s race.
The theme was law and order, a pivot from the former President’s usual election integrity messaging. This subject matter was strategic, as in recent days Sheriff Lombardo and Governor Sisolak have sparred on social media over local crime rates.
Trump said Nevada is a “cesspool of crime” and argues that if drug dealers got the death penalty it would solve the drug problem in the U.S.
He said he wants a powerful police force on the streets and praised Rudy Giuliani for his policing tactics including “stop and frisk.” pic.twitter.com/rIcUxh9x4E
— Naoka F. (@naokadforeman) July 9, 2022
There seems to be a more nuanced reason not only for the short notice and invite-only stop, announced just 72 hours earlier, but also for the “Back the Blue” mantras: a faction of the party’s base is raising election integrity concerns over the June 14th primary, i.e., the crowd that supported Lombardo’s grassroots primary opponent, Joey Gilbert.
A few dozen Gilbert supporters demonstrated near the hotel Friday after Gilbert encouraged them to “express their opinions,” in a podcast leading up to the event. Gilbert attended a Reawaken America event in Virginia Friday alongside General Michael Flynn, but responded for comment, telling RedState:
“We fix our elections and we fix everything. This is a call to action to save our Constitutional Republic and defend our God-given rights.”
It’s important to note that Gilbert has not conceded the race against Lombardo, and speaks of contesting the election results through litigation.
By keeping his message centered on public safety and America First policies Trump had his finger on the party’s pulse, using the campaign stop to signal to Republican loyalists to shift their focus from contesting the state’s primary election results to achieving GOP wins in November.
This aim for party unification comes after a contentious closed primary between what was seen as an establishment versus grassroots campaign in both top-of-the-ticket races. These races are widely considered to be toss-ups in Nevada and winnable for Republicans. For disgruntled Nevada Republicans, the event’s message was clear: “Get on board with the candidates, or don’t come.”
No, nobody actually said that, but it was demonstrated when Clark County Republican Party District G Trustee Natalie Thomas was invited and then uninvited to the event. She believes her un-inviting was based on a social media post that criticized Sheriff Lombardo, along with Governor Sisolak, for pandemic business closures.
Thomas explains to RedState:
“I want to take what Chairman McDonald said to heart, which was ‘unity by accountability.’ Being uninvited sends a very confusing message in the wake of trying to unify the party.”
Thomas has a sense of humor about it all, though, calling the episode “hilarious.”
Joe Lombardo received a warm reception from the crowd Friday, saying it was “nice to finally be in a room of friends,” while the attendees seemed to agree with the sentiment. Aside from the noticeable absence of the Pledge of Allegiance, National Anthem, and opening prayer they are accustomed to, those in attendance had more ceremonious takeaways as the event concluded.
Local political podcast host of the “Johnny Bru Show,” John Bruchhagen. said:
“If Joe Lombardo wants to unite the party, he’s going to have to reach out to local grassroots conservatives by going on local shows, not just ride the coattails of Donald Trump and longtime friend, Nevada GOP Chairman Michael McDonald‘s endorsments. Today was a step in the right direction.”
Rob Kafka, also in attendance, noted, “This is the best and most I’ve ever seen of Joe Lombardo and I’d like to see more.”
Watch Trump’s full remarks below.